Coffee Investigator
Collecting information on coffee and the different machines used to grind and brew coffee


Proper Coffee Storage

Don't ruin your gourmet coffee with improper storage.

You just purchased some freshly ground coffee at the grocery store and you are getting ready to open it and have yourself a fresh cup of coffee. What should I do with the newly opened bag of coffee? Store it in its original bag or put it in an air tight jar? Maybe all I need to do is put it in a paper or plastic bag. Should I refrigerate or freeze my coffee? Does it matter if it's whole bean coffee or ground coffee? These are the questions that most new coffee buyers ask or at least they should ask if they care about the taste and quality of the coffee they drink. You can take the best coffee in the world and store it improperly for a month in a glass jar on your kitchen window sill in the sun and now you have a crappy tasting coffee. Sorry for saying it that way but it's the truth and I do believe I got my point across to you.

Now that I got your attention I'll go on. Really the answers vary widely, depending on what form your coffee is in.

Green Coffee Beans
The green coffee beans store the best. If they are stored in the refrigerator or some cool location and placed in a tightly sealed container, they can last over a year. Even after a year or more they will still produce a flavorful and aromatic cup of coffee. The biggest problem with green beans is that there is more work involved to turn them into a cup of coffee. First you will have to roast them and then grind them. The average coffee drinker does not have the equipment to roast the green coffee beans and many don't even have a grinder to grind the whole beans. Green beans are also harder to find and usually come in larger quantities.  Some quality coffee shops and online coffee shops sell them, but your local grocery stores usually don't. I still see some local grocery stores carrying the roasted whole beans with the grinder there so you can get fresh ground coffee. I love the great smell of fresh ground coffee, it's the best!

Roasted Whole Bean
The next best way to store coffee is to store it "already roasted" but in the whole bean form. Grinding your own beans is pretty simple and will be worth the little extra effort it takes. Roasted whole bean will last 1 to 2 weeks when stored at room temperature. You should keep it in an airtight container that blocks the light. Plastic or metal containers like aluminum canisters may contaminate the taste of your coffee so try to use ceramic if possible. A dark glass container will also work well but if one is not available and all you have is the clear glass container just try to keep it in a dark cupboard.

One other thing to consider is the gas roasted beans create. It is best to vent off the carbon dioxide gas for the first few days by opening up your coffee container each day for a few seconds. Another alternative is to use valve bags. These are bags with little one-way valves in them to allow CO2 to escape but don't allow oxygen in. The downfall is that these bags are hard to find and a little expensive.

If you can't use up your whole bean coffee in 2 weeks, then you should freeze it. Coffee stored this way will last about a month or two. Wrap it up in several layers of plastic wrap, or use an airtight container with as much air removed as possible. Once your beans have been frozen and thawed, do not refreeze them. It's best to just take out the beans you need and then put the bag back into the freezer. There is no need to thaw them out before grinding. Frozen beans will grind up just fine.

Don't compromise your coffee beans by storing in the refrigerator. That is probably the worst place for your coffee as it is not cold enough to prevent your coffee from going stale. There is also the possibility that your coffee will pick up flavors and odors of other stuff stored in the refrigerator.

Ground Coffee
The last kind of coffee we cover is probably the most widely used which is roasted and ground. This is the most volatile form of coffee and isn't good for storage beyond a few days after opening. Many companies vacuum seal the coffee just after it is ground in very air tight containers to keep it as fresh as possible from manufacturer to grocery store and then to you. Some coffee companies will flush the bags with nitrogen to get the oxygen out instead of vacuum sealing them. After you open the bag, try to use an air-tight and light-proof container to store the coffee in. Once a bag is opened it's best to use it up in a week or two as it will go stale fairly fast.

Good coffee is fresh coffee! Only buy what you need and can use up fairly fast.

Single serve Coffee
Single serve coffee that is actual ground coffee usually comes in its own container and is not opened and used until it is time to make a cup of coffee. Store it in its original container in a cool dry place to keep its freshness for a long time. Most single serve packages are flushed with nitrogen or vacuumed packed for freshness.

Instant Coffee
Oh,,, I forgot to mention instant coffee. It will never be fresh as it is made from all the rejected beans that nobody wanted in the first place.

Ten month old coffee taste test:
With all this said and done I'm going to contradict myself a little by saying that I have some coffee here at home that I forgot about for over 10 months. The coffee was ground coffee in its original air tight bag sitting in my closet. I opened the bag and made the coffee just as I normally do and to my surprise it tasted just as if it just came from the manufacturer I purchase some of my coffee from. I decided then to do a side by side taste test with some of the same coffee that I just received. The fresh from the roaster coffee had just a little more flavor than the 10 month old coffee. So I decided to just add a little more grounds to the old coffee and that seemed to boost the flavor up some to where it came close to the fresh coffee. I admit that the coffee was a little stale but not enough for me not to drink it or for someone else to even notice the difference.


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